Massage Vest Uses PIC32

330 Freeman Lead Image

Controlled with an iOS App

These Cornell graduates designed a low-cost massage vest that pairs seamlessly with a custom iOS app. Using the Microchip PIC32 for its brains, the massage vest has sixteen vibration motors that the user can control to create the best massage possible.

By Harry Freeman, Megan Leszczynski and Gargi Ratnaparkhi

As technology continues to make its way into every aspect of our lives, we are increasingly bombarded with more information and given more tools to organize our busy days. For our final project in the Digital Design Using Microcontrollers class at Cornell University, we sought to build technology to help us slow down, enjoy the moment and appreciate our senses. With that in mind, we built a low-cost massage vest that pairs seamlessly with a custom iOS app. The massage vest embeds 16 vibration motors and users can control the vest to create the most comfortable and soothing massage possible. The user first provides their input through the iOS app, which allows for multiple input modes—including custom or preset. The iOS app communicates to a PIC32 microcontroller via a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module and ultimately the PIC32 turns on the vibration motors to complete the user’s requests. A block diagram is shown in Figure 1. Throughout the massage, users can update their settings to adjust to their desires. The complete massage vest costs less than $100—competitive with mass produced massage vests.
330 Freeman Fig 1 for web
Massage vests have historically been used for both pleasure and therapeutic purposes. Several known iOS-controlled massage vests include the iMusic BodyRhythm from iCess Labs and the i-Massager from E-Tek—both presented at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2013. The former syncs a massage to music for the user’s enjoyment, while the latter provides Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) as a certified medical device to relieve chronic pain. A group of Cornell students also won an Innovation Award in 2013 from the Cornell University School of Electrical and Computer Engineering for a massage vest called the Sonic Destressing Vest. The Sonic Destressing vest claimed to reduce the serum cortisol levels of its users, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and depression—among many other chronic issues related to high serum cortisol levels. Those three vests motivated us to build a multi-purpose massage vest that could be extended to provide the particular features of those vests if desired—serving an existing base of users.

This article describes the details of how our massage vest worked so you can build one for yourself. First, we’ll discuss the hardware design that creates the comforting experience the user has with the vest. This will be followed by a discussion of the software that integrates the components together and provides a friendly user interface. Finally, we will conclude with testing and results. …

Read the full article in the January 330 issue of Circuit Cellar

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